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June 20, 1989

China Division, Asian Affairs Bureau [Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan], 'The Chinese Student Movement (After Armed Suppression by the Military)'

This document was made possible with support from The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

The Chinese Student Movement (After Armed Suppression by the Military)

June 20, 1989

China Division

1. The Facts

(1) The military began using force, including tear gas and automatic rifles, from the late night of June 3 until the early dawn of June 4. By around five o'clock that morning, the area in front of Tiananmen was suppressed for the most part.  At that time, many civilians and students were killed or wounded. (The exact number of dead is unconfirmed. According to Japanese press reporting, the figure from the Chinese Red Cross is 2,600 persons; from the foreign press, 1,400 persons; and according to student leaders, 3,000 persons. The authorities have subsequently been citing figures of 300 persons (among which, 23 students) or 200 persons (100 soldiers, 100 civilians).  Furthermore, the authorities have stated that not a single person was killed by the military at Tiananmen in the early dawn of June 4.

(2) Deng Xiaoping appeared on 9 June for the first time in 14 days [TN: sic – should be 24 days] following May 16, meeting military leaders and giving an important speech. He harshly criticized the series of moves as an attempt to subvert the Party and the socialist system, overthrow the People's Republic of China, and establish a bourgeois republic. Meanwhile, he also touched on adhering to reform and opening. (The leaders were present, except for Zhao Ziyang and Hu Qili.)

Since then, the important speech has been regarded as a programmatic document to unify all the party's thinking, and its study has started at every unit. 

(3) Together with the exposing from June 8 of student movement leaders (on June 13, arrest warrants were issued for 21 of them, including Wang Dan, Wu’erkaixi, and Chai Ling, as well as three worker leaders), three persons in Shanghai and eight persons in Beijing were sentenced to death for such actions as looting and arson.

(4) At a meeting on June 13 of the heads of various departments of the Party Central Committee and State Council, Li Peng charged each department with the following six tasks: (1) price stability, (2) emphasis on agriculture, (3) investment curbs, (4) correction of public opinion guidance, (5) independent and peaceful diplomacy, and (6) Third Plenary Session of the 11th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee Line (One Center, Two Basic Points).

(5) Attention is being given to when the Fourth Plenary Session of the 13th Central Party Committee will be held and how Zhao Ziyang, Hu Qili, and Rui Xingen (member of the Central Secretariat), whose activities have not been reported as of June 20, will be treated.

(Note) Circumstances Right Before the Use of Force

Martial law was declared on May 20. In the early dawn of June 3, when several thousand troops (without firearms) were heading for the center of Beijing along East Chang'an Avenue, they were blocked by students and civilians. In the afternoon of the same day, there were clashes in various places between the military and students. 

Beijing and the Martial Law Forces Command issued that evening (19:00) an emergency notification. They warned, "Recently, a small number of people have been obstructing martial law units and spreading turmoil" and "If they break the law without regard to their lives, then we will take any and all measures and adopt resolute means."

2. Japan's Response

(1) Presentation of the MFA Press Secretary's Speech (early morning, June 4)

"1. …It is a matter of great concern that it led to a situation of horrible bloodshed.

2. The Government of Japan strongly hopes that the situation does not worsen further."

(2) Statement of Chief Cabinet Secretary (June 5)

"1. … Japan, together with watching developments with great interest, has been hoping for a peaceful settlement of the situation.

2. However, it is truly regrettable that clashes due to the military's use of force led to a lamentable situation in which many lives were lost.

3. The Government of Japan, together with strongly hoping that the situation does not worsen further, hopes for a prompt return to normal of the situation in China."

(3) Statement of Chief Cabinet Secretary (June 7)

"Having made a comprehensive assessment of the situation, and from the viewpoint of protecting Japanese nationals, we have decided on an evacuation advisory for Japanese nationals in Beijing, with the exception of those who are indispensable for work."

(4) We have established within the Foreign Ministry a "Special Review Headquarters on the Situation in China" (headed by the Administrative Vice Minister) and under it a "Special Committee for the Protection of Japanese Nationals" (with the Director-General, Consular and Emigration Affairs Department, as committee chairman). (June 7)

(5) Administrative Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Murata summoned Chinese Ambassador to Japan Yang, said that the behavior of the Chinese government was "unacceptable from a humanitarian point of view," and called on the Chinese government to exercise self-restraint." (June 7)

(6) Travel Advisory (June 4)

(7) Advisory for Evacuation from Beijing (June 7) (omitted)

3. Responses of Major Countries

(1) United States

(a) President Bush issued a statement expressing regret (afternoon of June 3)

(b) Secretary of State Baker stated that the situation was horrible and chaotic (afternoon of June 3)

(c) President Bush announced five measures (below) (June 5)

- cease intergovernmental arms sales, commercial arms exports;

- cease mutual exchanges between US and Chinese military leaders;

- consider sympathetically requests for Chinese students in the United States to extend their stays;

- provide humanitarian and medical assistance to the wounded through the Red Cross;

- review other bilateral aspects in light of developments in the situation.

(d) The Department of State on June 3 expressed its deep concern to the Chinese Ambassador.

(e) Senator D'Amato and Congressman Solarz on June 11 spoke of the need for further economic sanctions against China (ending most favorable nation treatment, restricting technology transfers)

(2) Britain

(a) Prime Minister Thatcher spoke on June 4 of a strong shock and said that Britain was involved in guaranteeing the future security of Hong Kong.

(b) British Foreign Office in a talk on the evening of June 3 said, "We are very concerned. We hope that there will be no further use of force."

(c) Foreign Secretary Howe informed the Chinese charge d'affaires ad interim of the canceling of the visit (on June 7) to Britain of the Justice Minister and the visit to China (for this weekend) of Britain's Agriculture Minister, and said that they would not be able to proceed with the visit to China of Prince Charles (June 5).

(d) Foreign Secretary Howe announced on June 6 in Parliament the suspension of high-level military contacts and a ban on arms sales.

(e) Foreign Office Under-Secretary Gillmore on June 12 raised with the Chinese charge d'affaires ad interim press reporting that the Chinese Embassy had been harassing resident Chinese students in London and brought to his attention that the Chinese Embassy was expected to follow British laws.

He also brought up Yao Yongzhan (a student of Fudan University from Hong Kong, detained on June 11 at the airport in Shanghai) and expressed his deep concern.

(3) France

(a) President Mitterrand said on June 4 that there was no future (for such a government).

(b) Foreign Minister Dumas criticized on June 4 the Chinese government for using force. He hoped that the Chinese government would find a way for dialogue.

(c) Prime Minister Rocard announced on June 6 a freeze in relations with China (ending military cooperation, suspending visits at ministerial level and above, and canceling Li Peng's visit this year to France.)

(4) West Germany

(a) President Weizsacker on June 4 praised the students as "brave freedom fighters" and expressed support for them. 

(b) West German Foreign Minister on June 4 issued a statement. He expressed regret over the deaths.

(c) Under-State Secretary of Federal Foreign Ministry Sudhoff on June 5 summoned the Chinese Ambassador and asked that China abandon the use of force.

(d) Foreign Minister Genscher on June 6 said that Germany would not conduct high-level exchanges and would not authorize arms exports to China. However, he said that Germany would not carry out economic sanctions that would hurt the Chinese people.

(e) Chancellor Kohl spoke of a barbaric introduction of military force. He said that he sincerely felt sympathy and empathy for the students.

(f) A West German spokesman for economic cooperation announced on June 13 the cancellation of the signing for early this week of an economic cooperation agreement with China.

(5) Canada

(a) Foreign Secretary Clark in a statement of June 4 spoke of feeling "angry" over the many lives lost.

(b) Ambassador Drake announced that he would return to Canada and, following consultations with the government, return to Beijing.

Report from the China Division, Asian Affairs Bureau of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the subsequent actions of the United States, Britain, France, West Germany, and Canada.

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2020-0545, Act on Access to Information Held by Administrative Organs, published online by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Translated by Stephen Mercado.


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